Georgia Bereavement Casserole

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    10 to 12

    servings

Appears in

At no occasion in the South is the art of casserole baking more evident than at the bereavements following funerals, which are, quite frankly, as social as they are solemn. It’s not unusual, in fact, to see at least half a dozen casseroles (savory and sweet) contributed to a bereavement table by relatives and friends, but I don’t think I had ever seen such a display as the one I saw in Monticello, Georgia, at the home of a cousin who had “passed.” One of the casseroles was this elaborate beauty made with full-flavored brown rice (which is unpolished, with only the husks removed) instead of the standard white long-grain variety—served, no less, in an exquisite silver chafing dish. All that ceremony lacked was a four-piece jazz combo like the one featured at another bereavement I once attended at a country club in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup slivered toasted almonds
  • One 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry

Method

In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a brisk boil, add the rice, and stir. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook till all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an attractive 3- to 3½-quart casserole and set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the onion, celery, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the top and cook, stirring, 3 minutes longer. Add the broth and half-and-half and stir steadily till the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole, add the cooked rice, the chicken, almonds, pimentos, tarragon, salt and pepper, and sherry, stir till well blended, and bake, covered, till bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.